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1 City 5 Ways: Quito

Quito
Many discover Quito, Ecuador, on their way to the Amazon or Galápagos Islands but quickly realize that it’s a worthy destination on its own. Though volcanic eruptions and earthquakes have done their worst, Quito continues to flourish in a circle of majestic Andean peaks. It boasts some of the world’s greatest biodiversity, and the colonial city center, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, reveals influences from ancient indigenous cultures, the Inca and Spanish. At 9,350 feet, Quito is the world’s second-highest capital, but exploring it is likely to give you a natural high that comes from finding something special.


LUXURY LOVER

Casa Gangotena        
Casa Gangotena.        

Where to Stay: Casa Gangotena
Settle into a posh room complete with antique art deco furnishings in this neoclassical mansion-turned-boutique hotel, which overlooks Plaza San Francisco. Indulge in high tea at Café Quiteño and a cocktail on the rooftop terrace. 

Morning: Galeria Latina
This Plaza Foch-adjacent store has been showcasing Latin American folk art and handicrafts since 1986. You’ll find soft alpaca garments, leather handbags, Panama hats and colorful appliqué panels called molas. 

Lunch: URKO Cocina Local
Spring for the conceptual tasting menu, based on the cycles that dictate agricultural growing traditions, and you’ll spend two hours on a culinary tour of Ecuador, with ingredients sourced from the Andes, Amazon and the coast. 

Afternoon: Ariu
Shop for wearable art from third-generation goldmith/silversmith Byron Ushiña. His indigenous roots are evident in graphic cufflinks, earrings and necklaces—some adorned with polished gemstones. 

Dinner: Theatrum Restaurant & Bar
This inventive restaurant in Sucre National Theatre exudes drama, from the towering red velvet curtains draping the walls to the intricate dish presentations. Try the sea bass ceviche with peanut sauce and avocado. 

 

HISTORY HUNTER

Old Town Quito        
Old Town.        

Where to Stay: Hotel Plaza Grande
Francisco Pizarro laid the foundation for this hotel in the 16th century after Spain gifted him the land overlooking what’s now Independence Square. All of the 15 rooms have colonial architecture and modern amenities.  

Morning: Old Town
Snap a photo of the city through Basilica del Voto Nacional’s pointed spires and people-watch in Plaza de la Independencia, honoring those who called for freedom from Spain. Then head to Compañía de Jesús, the grand gilded church completed in 1765.

Lunch: San Agustin Heladeria-Restaurante 
Started in 1858 as Quito’s first ice cream shop, this café now also offers a robust menu of savory dishes. Order humitas (steamed corn cakes) and finish with helados de paila (ice cream hand-turned in a copper pot). 

Afternoon: Chapel of Man
Artist Oswaldo Guayasamín’s moving body of work, celebrating the resilience of the Latin American people and promoting peace, is showcased at this Bellavista neighborhood museum, a UNESCO “Priority Project for Culture.” 

Dinner: Casa Los Geranios
Find a table on this flower-filled terrace on Calle La Ronda. Locro Quito (potato and cheese soup) and airy, cheese-filled empanadas offer a tasty introduction to Ecuador’s food heritage. 

 

BOHEMIAN

Cafeteria ISVEGLIO        
Cafetería ISVEGLIO.        

Where to Stay: Hotel Patio Andaluz
A stone’s throw from Plaza Grande, this intimate hotel has colorful reading rooms, a sun-filled solarium and colonial-style décor. Ask a staffer for tales of revolutionaries who have visited the 16th-century property over the years.  

Morning: Cafetería ISVEGLIO
Get your morning caffeine fix with a side of coffee education at this modern café, where knowledgeable baristas serve expertly crafted cappuccinos, espressos and cold brews pulled from locally roasted Ecuadorian beans. isveglio.com

Midmorning: Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal
Scout for bargains among the more than 100 stalls at this covered, open-air craft market. Dream catchers, funky sneakers, alpaca blankets and jewelry are affordable treasures. 

Afternoon: La Mitad del Mundo
Once thought to mark the location of the equator, this complex 13 or so miles outside of Quito is actually about 240 meters south of the official spot—but it still offers plenty to do. Refuel at Yaraví, where you can try roasted cuy (guinea pig), a local delicacy. 

Nighttime: Plaza Foch
The intersection of Calle Reina Victoria and Mariscal Foch is party central. Hop from bar to bar, seeking out everything from pop to traditional pasillo music.

 

FOODIE

Zazu        
Zazu.        

Where to Stay: Villa Colonna Quito
You’ll feel like part of the family at this tiny hotel in the city’s historic center, where the six unique rooms are filled with original art. Start your day with complimentary fresh-from-the-oven chia bread and Ecuadorian coffee.   

Lunch: Osaka
Stop for a taste of buzz-worthy Asian-Peruvian fusion fare and handcrafted cocktails in the La Floresta neighborhood. Raw tuna topped with foie gras and giant prawns sizzling ishiyaki-style are favorites. 

Afternoon: The Kallari Cafe
You can’t leave without a sweet souvenir, since the Andes are home to top-tier cacao. Choose rich organic bars in flavors ranging from lemongrass to coffee at this fair-trade cooperative. 

Early Evening: El Panecillo
Pick up some Belgian Saison Papaya by Zambo Creek at a local grocery and take a cab to the 135-foot-tall metal apocalyptic virgin statue, which presides over the city. Find a spot in the grass and watch the city light up below.

Dinner: Zazu
One of the city’s undisputed bests (and Ecuador’s only Relais & Châteaux restaurant), this stunner turns out contemporary dishes with local ingredients. Order the maize and suckling pig confit with a selection from the 25-foot-tall circular wine cellar. 

 

NATURE EXPLORER

Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve        
Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve.        

Where to Stay: Hotel Carlota
This 12-room hotel’s sustainable design features a courtyard-turned-open lobby reminiscent of traditional Spanish gardens. The rooftop’s 360-degree views pair perfectly with herbal cocktails from the urban garden. 

Morning: Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve
At one of the world’s only inhabited volcanoes, 10 miles north of the city, the extreme elevation plus the cloud forest’s humidity make it a paradise for rare flora, including nearly 100 species of orchids.

Midday: Libertina Tienda Galeria
Find more than a dozen independent artists and designers selling their wares at this boutique/café in the La Floresta neighborhood, where the fashion, art, pottery and textiles you’ll find are truly unique.

Afternoon: TelefériQo
Get a feel for the landscape with an 18-minute gondola ride up the slopes of Pichincha, an active volcano. At about 13,000 feet, on a clear day, you’ll be able to see the glacier-topped Cotopaxi volcano. 

Dinner: Botánica Café Jardín
The greenhouselike ambiance of this restaurant may draw guests, but farm-fresh dishes such as marinated zucchini carpaccio on house-baked bread and fig-studded cheesecake keep them coming back.

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